Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Still. Reading.

So, July has begun. My high hopes of having a third draft by now are flapping, shredded, in the wind. My hopes of having a third draft sometime this year are hiding behind things, hoping to not get stomped by hard-hearted reality as it thunders past.

I finished The Maltese Falcon (67,000 words, by the way). 179 pages (the other 10 were discussion questions) never took so long to read, ugh. The book is good, and tight, and I enjoyed it, but it would never have gotten published today. The book starts off with the physical description of the protagonist, followed immediately by the physical description of the secretary, followed immediately by the physical description of the femme fatale, followed immediately by the physical description of the protagonist’s business partner… there were step-by-step descriptions of how Sam Spade rolls a cigarette, how he sits up in bed, how he eats. I can’t imagine how long the book would have been if Hammett had been forced to cut those descriptions, like he would be if he were trying to get published now. The prose is utilitarian and without flourish. You can clearly hear the whisky-and-cigarrette-smoke-ruined voice reading the book; growling, begrudging, yet trying to hide the fact that he’s enjoying himself.

It was a relief to finish the book, and I immediately tried to check out The Big Sleep, but of course it was checked out of the library. Instead I checked out a copy of K Is For Killer, a book that was picked on by Hardboiled and High Heeled as dealing directly with women filling traditionally men’s roles, their independence, and the theme of the “wrong body” that pervades the female detective genre. I read it in about three days and found it highly enjoyable, and when I finished it, The Big Sleep was still checked out. What to do now?

I read for pleasure for a few days, but today I was just starting to get an itch in my britches to start writing again. Just in time, I got an email saying that The Big Sleep was back in stock—thank god! Who knows what may have happened if I had started writing, all willy-nilly. Perish the thought.

My third draft is going to be very different from the second; all in good ways. It’s not going to be quite the reinvention that happened between Cassidy0 and Cassidy1, and I’m very happy about that. It is in my nature to look at my experiences and average them, and make predictions based on them. Like, “The first time I ever wrote a second draft, I completely rewrote the whole book from the very ground up.” So, obviously, that’s what every subsequent draft will be… until I have a larger sample size to draw from. Now, I’m looking at keeping most or all of the same characters, tweaking their roles minimally, tweaking their personalities considerably, adding scenes aimed at developing characters and themes, and generally grab the steering wheel and aim the car back onto the more acceptable, less self-involved road (where the “self” is Cassidy). It’s fascinating to me how a book can be vehicles for themes and messages that aren’t visible to the naked eye; one must unwrap them, one thin layer at a time, like an onion, to arrive at the pungent nugget of truth underneath.

Maybe it’s just true that, when you’re writing, you see the jewel of the message you’re trying to convey. The words are the wrapping paper. Your finished product is never going to look like that jewel, but that’s okay, because if it did, it wouldn’t be interesting—it’d be a necklace with no neck; a mustache with no one to twirl it. The reader needs to arrive at the jewel on their own to grasp the full impact.

Anyway, I post this and I begin The Big Sleep, as one. Happy reading to us all!

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